Matte Painter

Make backdrops for movies.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$34,000 – $100,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Matte Painters do?

Matte Painters create backdrops for films. Movies from The Wizard of Oz to The Lord of the Rings and hundreds in between have used matte painting techniques, though in very different ways. With digital effects at their fingertips, and Photoshop at the ready, today’s Matte Painters don’t work with giant sheets of glass and acrylic paints (though some still do, but more to be purposefully old-school). A Matte Painter today will instead create an entire world on the computer screen, to be used in scenes for movies where creating the real thing would be too expensive, time consuming, or just impossible.

In this position you have to be artistic, even with a brush, not always with a mouse. Some matte painting is still done by painting a scene onto a piece of glass, scanning and uploading the image to a computer, and then manipulating that image to create the aforementioned fantasy world (you didn’t think the Emerald City actually existed, did you? Or that Photoshop was around during Dorothy’s time?)

Matte Painters are masters at what they do; skilled Illusionists: Your goal is to create a seamless world blending reality and fantasy, leaving the audience wanting to visit your creation, rather than wanting to know how you made that set look so real. Leave them guessing as to whether or not that place really exists.

Should I be a Matte Painter?

You should have a bachelor's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Flexible: You're open to change and think variety is the spice of life.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.

  • Also known as: Background Artist, Matte Artist, Mattematician

    How to become a Matte Painter

    Most Matte Painters have a Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aut9aa&chl=|certificate+%2820%25%29|associate%27s+%2819%25%29|bachelor%27s+%2862%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,62
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